Be careful in the traffic. Here in Kenya they drive fast and without rules, not really. But the traffic is fast and different for people from Europe or countries where the traffic is slow. But you learn how to deal with it. Just remember that they drive on the left side here in Kenya!
My personal idea about driving here, is that I would never drive here. I dont function on a left side with a vehicle. But that is my personal opinion.
- Road Trip
The Matatu's are the cheapest way to travel in Nairobi, These are TOYOTA Hiace Vans mostly White with Yellow Stripe (some are Blue with Yellow Stripe) fare from KS 20 (Taxi Charge KS800 for same distance) and they go every where, the main terminal is at Accra Road/River Road, just ask any conductor and they will guide you to the one to your destination.
- Budget Travel
Bus # 34 from Moi Avenue / beside Ambsedure Hotel to Airport, look for the Number Sign held by the attendants. GPS Coordinates -1.285891,36.826105
This is normal commuter Bus 3+2 seats in a row, no space for storing luggage but you can buy 2 seats if required. KS 50 per person. I have got the space behind the door to keep my luggage, and the Bus was not full too.
There are 3 companies plying on this route, the KBS, City Hoppa and Double M Express, it take about 50 minutes, drop off at International Departure Unit 1 & 2/Domestic Departure, its a loop bus which can be taken for going to Nairobi Central and frequency is quite goods (every fifteen minutes) and Safe. No Ticket is issued, pay at the bus to the attendant.
Taxi Cost to air port KS 1,100/from air port 1,400 Minimum
- Budget Travel
Self drive: be realistic about road conditions
Because my experience of the country is limited to Nairobi and the central part of the Rift Valley, I can’t claim to comment authoritatively on the standard of the entire Kenyan road system. The bits we drove were of a pretty reasonable standard (compared to other African nations), but a few pointers may be of use if you're considering a self drive option.
Kenyan roads are generally well constructed, although the universally poor state of maintenance (both in towns and the rural areas) is clearly an issue.
The biggest challenge to safe driving (and rapid progress) is the huge volume of heavy vehicle traffic on the roads. On uphill stretches, some vehicles struggle to maintain more than a walking pace, thus frustrating vehicles trapped behind into unsafe overtaking manoeuvres. Seeing vehicles attempting to overtake on a blind rise just before a sharp corner when their acceleration is only marginally better than that of the vehicle they’re trying to overtake is a truly terrifying experience, but unfortunately, all too common.
Mindful of this challenge in a country that has some pretty fierce topography, it is hard to understand why the road authorities have not made more of an effort to introduce ‘crawler lanes’ which allow ordinary vehicles to safely overtake heavy trucks on uphill stretches, but ours is not to reason why (complete that well known quotation at your peril!)
Unlike much of Southern Africa, where single lane roads are engineered with a wide ‘hard shoulder’ onto which slow moving traffic can temporarily pull over in order to allow ordinary traffic to pass, the road edges in Kenya are sharply cambered. Thus, any vehicle pulling over to the left to allow other traffic to pass runs a more than even risk of careering off the road altogether, so don't even consider this maneouvre!
Nairobi has an international airport, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. It is the largest airport in East and Central Africa. In 2006, it processed 4.4 million passengers. Among the KLM, Kenya Airways and British Airways countries here. The airport is accessible by taxi, bus and shuttle bus. In Kenya, there are also two other international airports: one in Mombasa and Eldoret.
Wilson Airport is a small, busy airport in the south of Nairobi. It was in the 30s and 40s of the 20th century for stopovers on the route from Southampton to Cape Town used. On this route were used flying boats between Britain and Kisumu, and the routes to the south by land planes were performed. Wilson Airport is still in use as an airfield for the use of smaller aircraft, such as the transport of tourists. The international aid agency Missionary Aviation Fellowship here has a base from which aid flights.
- Business Travel
Taxi rides in Nairobi
In case you take a taxi check if it is a good car and agree on price and safety before you leave. When you have a solid driver keep him for the days you need him. Keep your doors and windows closed in city traffic.
- Road Trip
A general idea of Fares to/from CBD as the Nairobi Taxis do not have meter.
To Jomo Kenyatta International Airport KS1,100
From Airport 1,400 (They ask 1,500)
ABC Shopping Centre KS600
Adams Arcade KS600
Bomas of Kenya KS1,000
Bububuru/ Jericho KS1,000
City Stadium KS500
Dagoretti Corner KS900
KCB/ Glaxowelcome KS800
KCCT Mbagathi KS1,400
Kenyatta University KS1,600
Kilimani/ Yaya Centre KS500
Komarock/ Kayole KS1,400
Lower Kabete KIA KS800
Lunga lunga KS800
Nairobi West/ Madaraka KS500
Parklands/Aga Khan KS500
Ruaraka G.S.U KS900
Safari Park KS900
South B/C / Parkside KS600
Southlands/ Otiende KS900
Spring Valley Peponi Road KS600
Tetra Pak KS700
Umoja/ Doonholm KS1,200
UNEP Gigiri/ Village Market KS800
Utalii Hotel KS800
Valley Arcade KS600
Wilson Airport/ Carnivore KS700
- Budget Travel
Self drive: human/wildlife conflict on the roads
Kenya has a system of wildlife corridors between parks and reserves, where wild animals (including sizeable beasts such as buffalo) have the opportunity to cross public roads which is farsighted from a conservation point of view. Even outside of reserves, Kenya's wonderful wildlife endowment is such that it is not unusual to encounter wildlife in rural areas ... the downside is that they have absolutely no traffic sense, and present the sort of opportunity for a closeup wildlife encounter that you really don't want to avail yourself of!
In Kenya, the buzz phrase in conservation circles is 'human/wildlife conflict', and roads present the ideal opportunity for this scenario to play out. So be sure to travel slowly and be particularly vigilant along sections of road designated as wildlife corridors (and indeed, in rural areas where wildlife or livestock may decide to play with the traffic). Also remember that you may encounter all sorts of wildlife along the roads (one of the charms of travelling in Kenya), so don't just worry about large herbivores - imagine the damage that a collision with the suicidal tortoise (pictured) could have caused to you, your car and him!
Also bear in mid that animals are dazzled and bemused by headlights, which mess with their distance judgement. So if you decide to travel after dark - which I would strongly recommend you don't - the chances of an antelope misjudging your proximity and trying to leap over your bonnet (and defaulting to join you in the front seat via the windscreen) are very real and potentially catastrophic.
For fear of boring you, because of the risk of colliding with pedestrians/livestock/wildlife on unlit roads after dark, I would strongly advise that you simply don’t even consider venturing out on the roads after sundown.
Self drive: playing 'chicken' in the traffic
There are times in Kenya when ‘playing chicken’ in the traffic will literally involve chickens … and donkeys … and cows … and goats … and dogs … and children …
Firstly, forget any first world concept of who or what 'has priority’. The simple truth is that if you hit anyone or anything, you are liable. You are obliged to report the incident to the police, which will at best involve paying compensation to the animal’s owner (or, infinitely worse, confronting the child’s bereaved parents) and could quite likely result in criminal charges (including murder) and you being jailed in the interim to avoid you skipping the country. It therefore goes without saying that you should exercise extreme caution when driving through areas (particularly settlements) where there is potential for livestock, wildlife or pedestrians on the road. Slow down and be extra vigilant so that you can anticipate – and hopefully avoid – potential collisions.
The most random of all are pedestrians – especially children, who get easily distracted, and generally don’t have much road sense. During the day, African society tends to congregate along the roadside, so be aware that there can be surprisingly large numbers of people around even in fairly small settlements.
So, let's step through the hierarchy of traffic cluenessness from the bottom up. By far and away the most random and stupid livestock you are likely to encounter are sheep: my experience is that sheep have suicidal tendencies, and if given a choice, will almost invariably put themselves into the situation that poses greatest danger to its welfare!
One step up from sheep are cows and donkeys have precious little road sense, but tend to be a little slower moving and slightly more predictable in their movements (admittedly this is fairly faint praise).
Despite the fact that they wander across roads with gay abandon, goats are generally nimble and canny, and in 25 years of driving in Africa, I have never come anywhere near to running over a goat or known anyone who has (although I have seen many accidents caused by people swerving to avoid one). My personal feeling is that goats are well able to look after themselves, and so you’re much more likely to do greater damage to yourself, your vehicle and other bystanders by trying to avoid them.
Because of the risk of colliding with pedestrians/livestock/wildlife on unlit roads after dark, I would strongly advise that you simply don’t even consider venturing out on the roads after sundown.
Self drive: speed bumps and sump busters!
Kenyan road traffic calming measures are pretty rudimentary and low maintenance, as befits a developing country where maintenance of complex equipment (such as traffic lights) could be a challenge. The favoured options are roundabouts (in towns - see other transport tip) and speed bumps (everywhere else).
Speed bumps work better in less trafficked areas, and usually mark the entrance to and exit from a town/village or other high risk area (such as a school or road intersection). Speed bumps vary from the benign ‘let me rattle your wheels a bit to make sure that you’re still awake’ variety to those which resemble the foothills of a mountain chain and are ergonomically designed by sadists to inflict maximum damage on you and your vehicle.
Speed bumps are very rarely signed and may often not be particularly visible, especially if they are located along a shady section of road. The most reliable way to identify them is to keep an eye out for the telltale extensions of tarmac protruding out from the side of the road (see photo).
It's worth bearing in mind that hitting a speed bump at high speed could well result in you fracturing your oil sump, which is no laughing matter, and a situation best avoided, so slow down (which is, after all, the effect that they were trying to achieve in the first place)!
Wo says camels dont like rides? I took this picture at the busy Thika road, the main gate to Nairobi from the direction of east. Never before I saw any camel in area of Nairobi, not even at the Animal Orphanage which is part of National Park. There are few camels at Paradise Lost Park though, which is located at suburb of Kijambu. Anyway, was interesting to see such an transportation.
Besides Citi Hoppa there are many private buses conecting Nairobi with the suburbs and outskirts of the town. Most locals prefer such a buses although some of them are less comfortable and too crowded. The bus start and final stop is at the several points of the Downtown area, very close to the National Archive.
This buses are very pitoresque and easy to recognize, there is sort of competition between the owners, who's bus will be more attractive.
The regional air hub for East and Central Africa
In recent years, Kenya Airways has been making a concerted effort to establish itself as one of the pre eminent carriers on the continent. It may not be Africa's most luxurious airlines (South African Airways or Emirates are still in a league of their own) but it's perfectly acceptable, and certainly offer one of the more extensive and predictable networks for East and Central Africa in a region that is woefully short of reliable airlines.
So, how can you make this work to your advantage? Well, those who have read my other pages will already know that I am a great advocate of turning the potential negative of having to change planes into a positive opportunity to briefly explore somewhere that might otherwise never make it to the top of your 'To Do' list. Where possible, I plan trips to capitalise on the transit point as part of the travel experience, thereby effectively getting a 'free holiday', since most airlines won't charge you for a stopover provided that you flag your intention at the time of booking.
Nairobi itself may not be the world's premier tourist destination, but Nairobi National Park (which is on the fringes of the city and abuts the airport) is arguably the most accessible game reserve you'll ever encounter, and is easily explored on a half day trip. So, if you're planning to visit Africa on business or pleasure, and won't necessarily have the chance to do any game viewing elsewhere, why not consider flying Kenya Airways, stopping off for a day in transit, and then catching your connecting flight? For the price of a night's accommodation and a visa (depending on which passport you hold, and generally available on arrival), you'll have the opportunity to recuperate from your long haul flight and enjoy a taste of that iconic African wildlife experience that you might not otherwise get around to: my only warning is that once you're hooked, you'll want to return time and time again!
A word about Jomo Kenyatta International Airport itself. The airport is fairly well run and moderately efficient, with staff who speak excellent English. As a result, it should be unthreatening even to those who have not previously travelled in the developing world - important as Kenya is often a tourist's first experience of Africa - and certainly something that you can't take as a given for many other airports in the region! As you might expect, it isn't very luxurious, but it offers all the basics, including a few convenient shops and a post office in the departure area.
Lastly, if you're just staying overnight in Nairobi in transit, please bear in mind the city's appalling traffic congestion when you're selecting your accommodation. I would strongly recommend staying at the Serena hotel near the airport, which although a little more expensive, will save you the trauma of having to brave the uncertainty/inevitability of traffic delays when trying to make your connection the next day.
Self drive: have you considered Valium?
(work in progress)
Even if you don’t usually subscribe to the principle of chemically altering your moods, Kenyan driving will probably drive you to it (pun intended)!
Kenyan drivers are extremely aggressive and will cut in ahead of you into a gap that you didn’t imagine would accommodate a roller skate, let alone a matatu (minibus taxi)! Once you understand that it’s all an elaborate game of ‘chicken’, and that capitulating will not only NOT help – but actively hinder you – will you start to ‘drive safely’ (ie. like a Kenyan)
Unlike other countries, where certain segments of the population (taxi drivers, testosterone-charged youths) drive like demons, in Kenya, manic driving seems to be obligatory. Puzzlingly, although Kenyans drive like deranged dictators bent on world domination, there is surprisingly little attendant road rage. Hooting of horns is the exception rather than the norm, and road rage doesn’t seem to be a major issue in a context that would seem to richly justify it!
Self drive: tips on selecting the right hire car
During our recent trip to Kenya, we decided to hire a car and drive ourselves around, as we're pretty familiar with driving in Africa. However, although this is a cost effective option (and one that I'd choose again), I have to stress that it's not for cissies!
What follows are a series on tips on how best to survive driving in Kenya, starting with some ideas on hiring the right car ...
Nairobi traffic requires an automatic clutch if you are to retain any vestige of sanity in the nightmarish traffic congestion, as otherwise you'd probably burn out a clutch every few months! On the down side, sadly automatics (especially those that are not in the first flush of youth) are unfortunately not renowned for their acceleration abilities, which can be problematic once you get out of town and are attempting to overtake other vehicles (see my other transport tip)
Four wheel drive (4WD) vehicles are useful in terms of negotiating poor road conditions, providing clearance on dirt (unsealed) roads and adding height for game viewing, but these are much more expensive than ordinary 2WD and much heavier on fuel. So consider your proposed itinerary carefully and ask yourself whether 4WD is really essential or just desirable (in which case, you can make an informed decision on whether you feel the cost differential is justified). If you're going to be doing guided tours in the reserves, then chances are that the service provider will have their own game viewing vehicle anyway, so you need to work out what's practical and cost effective getting to and from the reserves.
Lastly, comprehensive insurance cover is NON NEGOTIABLE – five minutes in Nairobi traffic will provide you with every possible justification as to why this is the case!
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